Stravinsky loses Public Domain status January 30th, 2012 by b-knox

When I was a teenager I watched Disney’s Fantasia countless times, Rite and Bald Mountain were my favorite sequences by far. Over a week ago I had an epiphany — I’ve been brewing and incubating my next film project for quite a while, and Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring came to me as a sudden burst of inspiration. Rite has a perfectly consistent dissonance in both melody and rhythm. So, I could compose original themes and score the thing in post production, OR I could allow myself to work around something that is not only already awesome, but not played out either. Tchaikovsky: played out. Mussorgsky: played out.

And then the whole SOPA/PIPA blackout thing happened.  It was a good thing.  Except, on the same day, the Supreme Court made a large decision regarding copyright – to honor international copyrights.  Basically, if the US government wants the nations of the world to honor US copyright then the US government should honor other nations’ copyrights with US copyright laws.  Many works in the public domain at this time suddenly became copyrighted once again.  Current US copyright law dictates that a copyright sustains the life of an artist plus 70 years OR 95 years from the publication date.  This includes works by Stravinsky and many, many more.

Currently, anything published before 1923 or any artist that died before 1923 works is now public domain.  A jazz standard like Tiger Rag, first published in 1917, is fair game.  But Stravinsky, who died in 1971, will not regain public domain status until 2041.  Don’t forget there is a correlation between the copyright length and Steamboat Willy, published in 1928.  Copyright laws have been extended with the help of Walt Disney lobbyists for the sole purpose of keeping Mickey Mouse out of the public’s hands.

Copyright beyond an artist’s life makes little sense to me.  It protects publishers and their heirs, not the artist.  Granted their is a talent to finding talent and then distributing that talent, and people should be able to provide for their offspring.  But 70 years?  Is that conceivably beyond the lifetime expectancy of companies and offspring?

Despite all this protection of intellectual property, artists (or their publishers) have to pay out of pocket to take legal action.  Stravinsky spent his whole life trying to protect his work, and also suffering from infringing on other works he himself thought to be public domain at the time.  There is an awesome radio program regarding Stravinsky’s copyright story.  It’s well worth the listen.

So now I will leave you with a nice 8bit version of Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring in it’s complete 33 minutes of cacophony. I think it was made with a midi file and GXSCC.

Filed under — Other People's Music
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